Are Your Aftermarket Truck Parts the Real Deal?

There’s a big business in counterfeit aftermarket parts that can spell big trouble for your company.

March 2014, - WebXclusive

by Jane Clark, NationaLease

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Phony designer handbags…fake Rolex watches…buy these without realizing it and you’ll undoubtedly overpay for inferior products. Your wallet and your ego will both take a hit, but you’ll survive. But if you purchase fake aftermarket truck parts, the results can be disastrous.

The ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council’s Counterfeit Parts Task Force states that, although it is hard to estimate the exact cost for the trucking industry, based on Federal Trade Commission reports “counterfeiting represents a $12 billion per year problem for the entire automotive industry.”

But the cost factor is the least of the problems. These fakes are made to look the same as an OEM or legitimately re-engineered aftermarket component, not necessarily perform the same. They are often constructed of substandard materials that easily succumb to shear and other weather and road related issues. According to the TMC, a single counterfeit brake valve can decrease the overall performance of a truck’s brake system. Imagine if one of your vehicles, carrying a full load, has a compromised braking system. And this is far from a North American problem only.

In India, it is estimated that up to 20% of all road accidents are due to counterfeit parts. In Saudi Arabia, the estimate is that 50% of all traffic accident deaths are due to these fake parts. If accidents occur, here in the U.S. or abroad, it’s the shop owner, the distributor, and the fleet owner who are held legally responsible, not the counterfeiter.

Because almost all of the counterfeit parts are manufactured overseas, there are limits to what government agencies can do to control this epidemic. With new technologies, counterfeiters are able to match paints and create packaging, labels, and security codes that are almost indistinguishable from legitimate parts and undetectable by many shop owners and technicians. And with so many businesses trying to control costs, this is the perfect opportunity for counterfeiters to sell their goods.

Stephane Godbout, vice president of fleet management for location Brossard NationaLease in Quebec has been dealing with this issue for a long time. “Cheapest is not always the least expensive. It’s all about the cost per kilometer,” he said. “Fifty percent off may not turn out to be the deal of the century. Companies have to be proactive, not reactive. They have to know what to look for, especially when the price seems too cheap. The biggest issues occur with brake parts. A counterfeit brake drum may be only half the weight of the legitimate part. But you need to have good, capable parts and shop managers who have knowledge about what they’re installing. We make sure we know what to look for and keep our people informed as to why we put our trust in such a part or a brand. We are always suspicious if something seems too good to be true.”

So what can you do to keep this from happening to your fleet? What should you be looking for?

  • Price – If prices seem to be relatively consistent across the industry and you find this amazing deal, you might be smart to just walk away.
  • Suppliers – You probably have suppliers you’ve been dealing with for years; suppliers you trust. Stick with them. Most reputable manufacturers sell directly to distributors through their own reps. Purchase brand name parts made by full service aftermarket suppliers who stand behind their products.
  • Quality issues – Pay very close attention to detail, especially if the country of origin is different than what you would expect. Does the product feel too light or too heavy? Is the color correct? Does the company logo look slightly different than normal? Make sure to check the part numbers and RMA codes. Last but not least, if you’re not sure, call the manufacturer directly.
  • Installation problems – The product looks right, but it doesn’t fit the way it’s supposed to. Again, call the manufacturer directly.

Remember, using counterfeit parts unknowingly does not relieve you of responsibility should an accident occur. And substandard parts actually diminish the life cycle of your fleet, so in the long run, as Stephane Godbout said, “Cheapest is not always the least expensive.”

Have you had any issues with counterfeit parts? How do you control your purchasing to guarantee that you get what you pay for?

Jane Clark is vice president of member services for NationaLease. Before joining the full service truck leasing organization, she served in executive positions with some of the nation’s top staffing and recruitment agencies.

(Editors' Note: This material was chosen and edited by HDT's editorial staff as something we believed would be of interest and use to our readers.)


  1. 1. Mike Pennington [ March 17, 2014 @ 03:49AM ]

    great warning to all fleets - valuable points. thanks for the counsel.

  2. 2. Vance Fellers [ March 22, 2014 @ 07:33AM ]

    I am shocked at comments made by Jane Clark with NationalLease titled "Are your Aftermarket Truck Parts the real deal"
    First of all, if a manufacturer, regardless of origin, intentionally try's to sell a part with the intent of misleading the consumer by making that part look and even have the OE logo on it , then that's a criminal offense and there has been people put in prison for those actions. However, to suggest that aftermarket parts in general are suspect based on price or origin is ludicrous. Especially, the statement that legitimate manufacturers would be represented by "their own sales rep" is offensive and incorrect. Mrs Clark obviously has spent very little time in the Aftermarket industry. I noticed she indicates that her background is in recruitment and that makes sense. She needs to write about what she knows and not mislead the readers of this publication. Afternarket suppliers are a vital part of this industry and the easy way to determine their legitimacy is they will have documentation that shows their parts meets and exceeds OE specifications. If they don't have that then no reputable sales rep regardless of who he works for would sell that line because his reputation is at stake, which is much more valuable than a commission.

  3. 3. Steve Yoder [ May 13, 2014 @ 07:27PM ]

    Are we to assume the leading brands are offering top-line quality when they're sourcing based on bottom-lines? Seems to me any parts maker, reman or otherwise, is sourcing overseas and I'm curious how leading authorities how questioning their biggest advertisers?

  4. 4. Frank O'Donnell [ August 23, 2015 @ 04:59PM ]

    Hi...I believe that aftermarket parts are often wrong specifications and probably cheap quality based on the fact that they don't always fit ,or they don't last as long as the original....That's not to say that some parts are not good quality...But I have replaced rubbers in my dodge van once that only lasted 3 months ,and then had to go to the dealer and buy O.E.M. that has now lasted years.....


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